Six Guidelines for Successful Cover Letters

By Wendy Lalli

Career counselors often use advertising terminology when talking about the activities of a job search. For example, they’ll refer to your resume as “your ad” and encourage you to develop a brief oral presentation about your experience referred to as your “elevator speech” or “commercial.”  This is completely understandable because a job search does involve successfully “selling” your skills and experience to employers.

Cover letters are part of that process and by applying six principles of direct marketing, you can significantly increase they success rate of this important job search tool. Consider these guidelines for creating cover letters that will help “sell” your skill sets more successfully throughout your career

Personalize the Salutation

Cover letters, like the best direct response communications, should always be personalized. Using a salutation such as “Sir or Madam” is nothing short of rude.  So how do you find a person you can write to about a particular job? Here are some suggestions that should help:

If you know the name of the company, address the letter to one of these people:

  • the head of the marketing department


  • the head of the HR department

You should be able to find this information through a little research on LinkedIn and Google.

Or try calling the company and asking the names of these people from whoever answers the phone.

If it’s a smaller company with no marketing head or HR department:

  • write to the company owner who should be listed on the web site.

If the job description has been placed by a recruiter and you can’t tell who the company is:

  • Address it to “Dear Hiring Manager.” (Sometimes a generic saluation is the only option.)

TIP 1:  Use Mr. or Ms. and the person’s last name. Yes, it’s a little formal but it also avoids coming across as presumptious and adds a touch of class to your communication.

TIP 2: Check your spelling. Look at the Web site or the person’s LinkedIn profile to make sure you’ve spelled it right. (Nothing is more annoying than someone asking for an interview who can’t even spell your name.)

TIP 3:  If you’re sending out more than one letter or email at a time, double check that your salutation is correct. Sending a letter to the Creative Director of ABC company that bears the name of the Creative Director from DEF company will probably end in the waste paper basket as soon as its opened.

Make sure to mention the product in the first paragraph.

In this case, the product isn’t you per se, but your suitability to fill the job that’s been posted. Mention the job title (or code number), the posting date and where you saw the posting in the first paragraph.

Remember, companies and recruiters may post different jobs at the same time. Make it as easy as possible for the poster to see which job you’re applying for so they read the your letter in the right context from the beginning.

State the product benefits quickly, simply and clearly.

Summarize just how your experience relates directly to the job you’re applying for.

This is assuming that your resume closely fits the job description. But even if it doesn’t do so,

briefly explain why you feel your knowledge, talents and abilities make you a good candidate for the position.

Close with a call to action.

Ask for a face-to-face interview. This indicates the depth of your interest and encourages the poster to act on your application as soon as possible.

Make it easy for the target market to respond.

Include your email address and phone number. Again, make it as easy as possible for the poster to complete this process by calling you in for an interview.

End with a “thank you” for considering your offer.

It’s the polite thing to do and shows that you’re considerate of others.

Mike Hensley, President, Gyro to Speak at BrandSmart 2016


President, gyro:chicago+denver

As co-founder of gyro (recently named ad Age 2016 Global B2B Agency of the Year) Mike has been the chief architect of some of the agency’s most successful marketing strategies for a long list of business marketing clients.  Whether it was taking our Digital practice live in 1994, getting our Planning and Brand Consulting practice up and off the ground,  or evolving and integrating our Content Planning, Digital Media, and Analytics practices,  Mike has helped companies like GE, Kodak, FIdelity, Sealed Air, and USG get closer to their customers.

He has spent more than three decades helping clients outthink, outsmart, and outmaneuver their competition by creating unique ways to deliver humanly relevant messages to the right target audience, in the right medium, and at the right moment.

As a recognized leader in business marketing, B2B communications strategy and branding, Mike has been invited to speak at numerous organizations universities, CEO roundtables, and executive conferences around the country.

When it’s “Mike time,” you’ll find him (or maybe you won’t) in cities and towns around the world that few have ever seen. Pushing, exploring, experiencing. Kind of the same way he looks at business.


Mike Hensley

C/O gyro

410 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 800

Chicago, IL 60611

Linda McGovern, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing of USG Corporation to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

Linda McGovern

Linda McGovern is the senior vice president, Global Marketing of USG Corporation.


She joined USG Corporation in 2005 as director, Marketing Communications and Brand Strategy, and was named Vice President in 2012. Prior to joining USG she held marketing roles at Navistar, Baxter Healthcare and USF Logistics.


McGovern graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Advertising, and from Northwestern University with a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communications.
She is currently serving as the 2015-2016 National Chair of the Business Marketing Association, and has also served as the BMA’s Chicago chapter President and a member of the BMA Board of Directors. She holds board positions at BPA Worldwide and at Indiana University’s Marketing Academy at the Kelly School of Business. In addition, she is an active participant of the Association of National Advertisers. In 2011 she was named a top digital marketer and was recognized in 2012 and 2013 as a BtoB best marketer by Advertising Age Magazine.


When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two children.



  • Twitter handle  @lgmcgovern

Gary Kash, Founder & President Emeritus of Insights in Marketing

Gary G. Kash

Founder & President Emeritus of Insights in Marketing

President of Gary Kash Marketing Insights

Areas of Expertise:

  • Positioning brands to drive growth
  • Articulating strategies that build brands
  • Growing entrepreneurial businesses
  • Storytelling to engage and teach effective marketing

Gary is Founder & President Emeritus of Insights in Marketing and one of the most respected leaders in the marketing industry. Retired from IIM, Gary now lectures on key marketing topics and leverages his wealth of successful consulting experiences to help businesses of all sizes prosper. Gary has recently had multiple speaking engagements at Northwestern/Medill School of Journalism and Morgan Stanley and has also been engaged by Post Brands and The Chicago Professional Network.

As founder of Insights in Marketing, Gary spent years driving IIM’s business objectives and the company’s unique culture. Known for his visionary leadership and creativity, Gary started IIM with one goal in mind – to give clients the critical edge necessary to win in a highly competitive marketplace. IIM and he did this by identifying deeper, more compelling insights leading to pragmatic, winning strategies.   Peers have nicknamed him “The Professor” because of his ability to deduce “aha moments” and share key lessons with clients and colleagues.

Gary’s experience spans consulting, brand marketing, advertising and marketing research. He has worked across many industries – food and beverage, packaged goods, financial services, insurance, alcoholic beverages, retail – and his counsel has been sought by well-known companies like MillerCoors, CDW, Gerber, General Mills, Liberty Mutual, Pepsico and S.C. Johnson. Because Gary has the ability to guide and counsel others, he has become a mentor to many and a sought after speaker. Recent engagements include “How to Market Yourself,” “Positioning a Brand to Win the War in a Competitive Marketplace,” “Identifying Rocking Consumer Insights; The Art of Seeing The not so Obvious” and “Fearless Fundraising.”

Prior to IIM, Gary was a Management Consultant for The Cambridge Group, specializing in positioning and new products for clients like Pepsi, Hallmark, Kraft, Quaker Oats, Ralston Purina, Citi-Corp and others. He also worked for Leo Burnett as an Account Supervisor responsible for Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, Special K and other brands for Kellogg’s. Prior to Burnett, Gary was in brand management at Kraft working in their Maxwell House Division.

Gary serves as Trustee and was Capital Fundraising Chairman (raising $10+ million) for The Center for Enriched Living, a charity he co-founded in 1984 focused on enriching lives of people with developmental disabilities (where he was named Volunteer of the Year for 2014). He is also a Board Director for a large charitable foundation helping Chicagoland’s under-served.

Gary has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago and a BS in Advertising from the University of Illinois.

You can contact Gary at: 847-217-4500 or email him at

Lianne Sinclair, SVP, Client Service Director, Energy BBDO to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

Lianne Sinclair

SVP, Client Service Director

Energy BBDO


Lianne Sinclair is an established account leader with an impressive track record for reinvigorating brands across categories. In her role as SVP, Client Service Director at Energy BBDO, Lianne leads global work for Wrigley’s 5 Gum, Orbit and Extra. Her unique strategic and creative approach to leadership has been integral to her success in driving innovative and effective work. Lianne helps build businesses and fuels creativity. She is proud to have led award-winning campaigns across multiple brands, and has three Cannes Lions, three Effie Awards, and a Jay Chiat Award on her shelf.


Prior to joining Energy in October 2013, Lianne worked for both BBDO New York and Atlanta where she led integrated campaigns for AT&T.. Most notably she led the brand’s widely recognized “It’s Not Complicated” campaign, as well as the powerful “It Can Wait” program geared towards changing perceptions on texting while driving.


Earlier in her career Lianne spent time at Bartle Bogle Hegarty where she helped revitalize the Vaseline brand with the “Skin is Amazing” campaign, and was a key lead in the re-launch of the British Airways brand, globally, with the heralded “Upgrade to British Airways” campaign. 

 Lianne earned her advertising stripes at The Martin Agency and Sawyer Riley Compton, where she worked on The Ritz-Carlton and Olympus (at the height of the digital camera revolution).


In addition to brand building, Lianne is passionate about art, design, travel, and family. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Harry and two kids, Sarah and Jack.

John Starkey, Vice President, Gum, Mints, & Media to Speak at BrandSmart 2016

John is an accomplished marketing professional with a consistent track record of brand building, innovation and business leadership.


John joined Wrigley in August of 2010 and took over the Gum business in May of 2014.


Since taking over the Gum business John has been leading the Gum category turnaround and growing the mints business with the successful launch of Altoids Arctic. Before leading the gum business, John led the Confections business for 2 & ½ years. During his time on Confections he tripled the growth rate of the Confections business, brought the NFL and Superbowl to Skittles, led the successful launch of Starburst Mini’s, and developed award winning creative for both businesses.


Prior to joining Mars, John worked at General Mills for 15 years.